Establishing “the right price” of a font is not easy. One reason is that, like any product that is distributed over the internet as digital files (apps, music, stock photos, movies, etc.), producing additional copies costs next to nothing. When selling a tangible product, the price of each copy is partly built around the cost of raw material and manufacturing for each copy. But when selling downloadable digital files, designers don’t have to worry about this.
However, one small font file may represent months or even years of dedicated hard work. Good fonts are, in fact, much harder to make than most users realize. How can the price of a small digital file reflect the lifeblood that went into its production?
To many type designers, the price of their typefaces is as much an emotional decision as it is an economic one. They feel that a relatively high price expresses appreciation for their work, and low or discounted prices degrade it. However, designers must consider the economic reality. Like any other business, designers must consider competitive factors, too. To make a living from fonts, foundries must find an audience that wants to pay for their work — and buy their typefaces rather than those offered by someone else.
Know your market and choose your strategy
In general, selling fonts online is a volume business. The more people that purchase your font, the more places it is used and the more popular it becomes, which in turn creates further demand for your fonts and increases the brand recognition for your foundry.
Pricing is often a question of choosing your niche in the market.
You may decide to adopt a high-price strategy with the hopes of creating a high-end brand which leads to larger offline deals and projects. When selling at a high price online, margins are larger and the profit-per-unit-sold increases; however, the number of units sold could decrease, and so could your total profit. This strategy could prove risky, as very few type foundries which adopt a high-end strategy end up becoming a well-known luxury type brand that then brings in the larger licenses and custom projects.
Many foundries see success by appealing to a broader customer base. Since the font market is so niche, you should create pricing that optimizes the number of potential customers that can afford your fonts. This means thoughtful and attractive pricing is essential. Quality and originality will always play an important part in convincing users to buy your fonts. Occasional font buyers are often persuaded to buy a font because the price is low enough for them to feel that the purchase carries little risk.
Our largest competition
Since the digital era began, computer and software companies have inadvertently shaped the public’s view of how much a font is worth. Companies bundled hefty packs of professional fonts with their design apps and devices, thus creating an environment where everyday consumers perceive the price of all fonts to be free. Free fonts with open source licenses are of course out there, and are higher-quality and more easily available than ever before. Further compounding the issue is that font piracy is rampant.
Today, collectively as a community of people who aim to make a living from selling type, our biggest competition is the free font market, not other designers selling fonts. Growing the number of customers who see the value in fonts and continue to pay to license them is something we can only do together.
In this rapidly changing market, establishing affordable retail prices can be a powerful tool to continue to sell great fonts.